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This page describes some research that was undertaken for the Community for All project.

Background reading and resources:

Main Points

This is a brief summary of a few of the main ideas in the papers and resources listed above, as well as thoughts that came out of a conversation with Clayton Lewis and the Community for All design institute. Much research and work has been done in this area; for more details please refer to the specific resources above, and feel free to add any that you find useful.

The Complexity of Simplification

  • simplification can take many forms
  • what is simple for one user may introduce complexity for another
    • e.g. showing a Table of Contents may help some users navigate the page while adding complexity for others
  • allowing for customization is the best way to ensure that all users' needs are met, however consider:
    • consider the complexity of the configuration apparatus (e.g. the process of selecting items to show/hide in a toolbar is often buried in a menu and/or requires a number of steps to complete)
    • context-dependent, dynamically configuring interfaces can introduce complexity for users who rely on proceduralisation (memorised steps) to complete a task

Depth vs. Breadth in Interface Design

  • consider the trade-off of reduced clutter with having to navigate through multiple layers of the interface
  • maintaining intention through multiple layers can be difficult for some users
  • adding depth introduces the need for appropriate and clear conceptual categorisation
    • also need good-quality cues to indicate the logic of categories

Designing for Self-advocacy - Main Considerations

  1. quick access to word meanings (dictionary on demand)
  2. consistent use of icons and symbols across the space
  3. the use of standard readability tests
    • results of standard readability tests on naturally-occurring text are usually accurate, however, once a text has been modified to achieve a higher readability score, the results may become inaccurate
      •  e.g. chopping up sentences into shorter sentences improves readability score but can actually make the text more difficult to comprehend
    • trying to avoid complex words based on assumptions about user comprehension can make text more difficult to comprehend
      • depending on the context, using plain language may actually introduce complexity by replacing commonly-understood words or expressions (e.g. "security deposit")
      • a better solution would be to provide word definitions on demand

The Role of Assistance

  • want to encourage peer-to-peer assistance as much as possible
    • to support user autonomy
    • to give all users opportunity to contribute as well as receive help
    • to facilitate growth of a supportive community for every user
    • to facilitate participation in a community
  • how can we design tools/functionality to support mutual aid between users?
  • social matching - finding others who have similar needs
  • sharing of preference sets/configurations/customized content between users is one way of achieving this
  • consider also the role of family and non-expert service providers - how can the tools we design support their role in providing assistance while continuing to support user autonomy?
    • e.g. allowing an assistant to pre-configure an interface  - how can user confirm that their needs are being met?
    • how can the tools we design allow a user to discover for themselves what their preferences are?

The Role of User Testing

  • while frequent and early user testing is important, this design approach can still result an interface which is inaccessible to many users
  • engaging in a co-design process where a broad range of end-users contribute to the design from inception to implementation means that user needs are more likely to be met

User as Designer


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3 Comments

  1. Regarding the role of assistance: First, some people with cognitive disabilities who are able to understand the content being offered will be unable to self-assess their needs and preferences and possibly unable to confirm the best fit. Second, I would ask you to add a category of assistance to cover non-experts who are engaged in the process such as families or service providers such as teachers who are not experts.

  2. Can you explain what 'community-configurable' means?

  3. Thanks for your comments Jim. Community-configurable may not be the best name for it, but I was hoping to explore how a given community of users can shape the tools we create to meet their needs (above and beyond providing a means to discover and set personal preferences as we are doing now). Or rather, how we go about designing tools that allow users to become designers of their own experience. I realise it sounds fairly abstract still. Related to this is the idea of creating tools that can support and encourage users to help each other as much as possible (e.g. by sharing configurations that work for them, or possibly in other ways). Of course this doesn't negate the role of family or non-expert service providers - I'll add that as you suggest. And I think I can add an explanation and/or reorganise the page to make my intentions more clear.